Claus von Stauffenberg

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Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg; after an impromptu court martial as a traitor for the failed attempt of the July 20 plot, he was condemned to death and executed alongside 1st Lieutenant Werner von Haeften, General Friedrich Olbricht (de) and Colonel Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim before 1:00 in the morning (21 July 1944) by a makeshift firing squad in the courtyard of the Bendlerblock, which was lit by the headlights of a truck. When his turn came, Stauffenberg spoke his last words, „Es lebe das heilige Deutschland!“ ("Long live our sacred Germany!").

Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf[1] von Stauffenberg (b. 15 November 1907 in Jettingen, Kingdom of Bavaria, German Empire; d. 21 July 1944 in Berlin) was a German officer of the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht, at last Colonel of the general staff (Oberst im Generalstab) of the Heer in WWII. One of the leading members of the failed July 20 Plot of 1944 to assassinate Adolf Hitler and take power in a coup, he was found guilty of treason and executed accordingly.


Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (young).jpg
The three brothers with their father
Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, c. 1929.jpg
Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg with his son Heimeran, his daughter Valerie, his niece Elisabeth, his nephew Alfred and his son Franz Ludwig in the summer of 1943 during his recuperation time.
Oberstleutnant i. G. Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg in 1944
Adolf Hitler five days before the 20 July plot assassination attempt. To the left Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg and Karl-Jesko von Puttkamer (de), to the right Wilhelm Keitel.

Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg was born 1907 as the youngest of four children. His twin brother Konrad died one day after birth. The elder brothers Berthold and Alexander were twins as well. The Grafen von Stauffenberg family stemmed from an aristocratic, 800 years old Schwabian lineage of prominent nobility. Claus’ father, Alfred Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, was a Major in the cavalry, Commander in the Order of the Holy Joris and the last lord chamberlain of the King of Württemberg (King Wilhelm II). Afterwards he became chairman of the revenue office until his retirement in 1928. His mother Carolina Gräfin Schenk von Stauffenberg, née Gräfin Üxküll-Gyllenband (b. 7 April 1875; d. 3 June 1956),[2] had been lady in waiting of the Queen of Württemberg. Claus’ great-great-grandfather was the famous Generalfeldmarschall von Gneisenau (de), one of the heroes of the time of the German campaign of 1813 (de) against Napoleon and co-founder of the Prussian General Staff (de). Claus von Stauffenberg was also a relative of Generalfeldmarschall Ludwig Graf Yorck von Wartenburg (de), another hero from the war against Napoleon.

In 1918, the Roman Catholic family moved to Lautlingen in the Schwabian Alps where they possessed an estate. Claus von Stauffenberg attended the Eberhard-Ludwigsschule in Stuttgart, a famous, 250 years old institution. He often suffered from headaches and inflammation of the throat and hence missed many lessons. During the last two years he stayed at the estate, receiving private education. His determination was enormous, however. He refused to accept his poor health. It seemed like he overcame his physical handicap by mental strength only. Claus von Stauffenberg even became a candidate for the German Olympic equestrian team.

Claus von Stauffenberg enjoyed the Lautlingen landscape. He and his brothers went on long hikes in the surroundings. He also retired frequently to meditate and enjoy the view of the hills and valleys. All three brothers took to poetry, philosophy, history, art and music enthusiastically. Claus von Stauffenberg played the cello and he dreamed of becoming a professional musician, composer or architect.

In addition, Claus von Stauffenberg developed a strong sense of his noble descent. To him, aristocracy was a starting point and an essential part of his existence. In those times, nobility had the never ending duty to serve the community and the Vaterland. They had gained their status not for nothing; they were responsible for those of another status and had to serve for the good of all. Even the possession of a family estate was not a right to be taken for granted. It was a means to an end; the children could receive the upbringing and education they needed to bear responsibility. Claus von Stauffenberg understood this quickly and this attitude was to play an extremely important role in his later life.

In 1923, when Claus von Stauffenberg was 16 years of age, he met the poet Stefan George (de). This meeting and the relationship he established with George would have a profound influence on his development, his attitude and his norms and values. The Gebrüder von Stauffenberg, the brothers, joined the circle of George’s followers. The members of this group discussed politics, literature, philosophy, ethics and read and wrote poetry. The brothers’ mother paid a visit to George, who was being wrongly suspected of homosexuality, in order to find out what kind of relationships existed within the group but she returned a satisfied mother.

On 5 March 1926, Claus von Stauffenberg passed his Abitur (graduation examinations) at the Gymnasium (at the 250-year-old Eberhard Ludwig Grammar School in Stuttgart). Meanwhile, he had given up his ideas of becoming a musician or an architect and he opted for a career in the army. This decision was a very unexpected one and it surprised everybody but Claus was self assured. He wanted to be involved with people, lead them and serve the community.

The Reichswehr, the German armed forces, had been starkly depleted as a result of the Treaty of Versailles. This meant more attention could be paid to training. Future officers had to serve as soldiers first. This was not always easy for the aristocratic von Stauffenberg. On 1 April 1926, he entered service in the Bavarian cavalry Reiter-Regiment 17, the Bamberger Reiter. Von Stauffenberg rocketed through the ranks. After having passed his officers exams, he was promoted to Leutnant on New Year’s Day 1930 and to Oberleutnant on 1 May 1933. He soon gained the respect and trust of his colleagues and superiors. He turned out to be a very capable and social officer but he sometimes forgot to shave and paid little attention to his hair and his uniform. He had a healthy contempt for protocol. His military description included the following words:

“[...] hardworking and independent, with an independent character, capable of making decisions. There is every reason for its progressive development [...]”.

In 1933, Von Stauffenberg also took an advanced course in horse riding. He mainly focused on dressage and won a competition against members of the German Olympic equestrian team that won the gold medal at the 1936 summer games. He did not only focus on his military career. He spoke Russian and English fluently and he also mastered French, Greek and Latin. Meanwhile, he continued attending the poetry nights with Stefan George. Among other things they discussed the rise of National Socialism. Von Stauffenberg had never been an advocate of the NSDAP, although he did agree with some points of the political program, such as ignoring the Treaty of Versailles and the expansion of the army and the Reich.

Reichspräsident Paul von Hindenburg died on 2 August 1934. His presidential duties were taken over by the Reichskanzler. Adolf Hitler officially became Reichskanzler and Führer from that moment on. In that capacity he also stood at the head of the German Army. That very same day, all German soldiers were obliged to pledge a personal oath of allegiance to Hitler. Von Stauffenberg considered this oath of little importance and reacted laconically. Yet this oath was to pose a perennial obstacle to the establishment of a wide spread resistance within the army. Many men felt like a double traitor, to the chosen leader of the fatherland as well as to Hitler.

In October 1936, von Stauffenberg took up studies at the Kriegsakademie der Wehrmacht, along with other promising young officers, which could earn him a position on the General Staff. On New Year’s Day 1937, he was promoted to Rittmeister. In 1938, von Stauffenberg completed his studies. 1 August 1938 saw him promoted to Quartermaster (Ib) of the Leichte Division. This division belonged to the force, that liberated the Sudetenland in 1938. In order to help the population in the occupied country, von Stauffenberg set up an aid program. He organized transports of foodstuffs and had fuel and raw material delivered from Germany.

In September 1939, von Stauffenbeg’s division was part of the armed force of the Poland campaign. On 1 November 1939, his rank Rittmeister was renamed Hauptmann i. G. The division was renamed the 6. Panzer-Division. The unit fought during the Battle of France in the spring of 1940.

On 31 May 1940, an important transfer followed for von Stauffenberg: he was given a position within the Organisationsabteilung (organization department) of the General Staff of the OKH (Oberkommando des Heeres, supreme command of the army). Von Stauffenberg normally felt more at home on the battlefield, but soon realized, that the General Staff was the right position for him. On 1 January 1941, von Stauffenberg was promoted to Major. He was closely involved in the preparations for Operation Barbarossa, which initially proceeded successfully, but soon, von Stauffenberg’s department was flooded with requests for reinforments. In his position, he also gained an inside view of the shocking waste of German manpower. He traveled along the front to discuss the problems, also talking to Henning von Tresckow (de) and his adjutant Fabian von Schlabrendorff. Von Stauffenberg’s attitude was still considered very friendly and social by his superiors. With his spontaneous and infectious smile, he often acted as mediator to play down arguments. His razor sharp sarcasm and his dominant attitude were mentioned as his negative points. Biographer Joachim Kramantz wrote about this:

As young as he was, Stauffenberg was soon trusted by everybody. People who made his acquaintance flocked to him to pour out their hearts and that did not only apply to colleagues his own age and rank. Even generals visiting headquarters from the front or from the reserve troops often took the opportunity to speak to him. Whenever Stauffenberg was late for lunch, everyone yelled: "There is crying general sitting in his office again." All sorts of cases were brought before him that did not really belong to his sphere of work. He could not care less whether he ignored an order from Hitler in doing so. He busied himself with everything he was interested in, even though it was outside his official competence.

In July 1942, Hitler paid a visit to O.K.H. headquarters in Vinnytsia (Winnyzja). On that occasion, von Stauffenberg met Hitler for the first time. Von Stauffenberg was personally in charge of filling the ever growing gaps in the German ranks. Soldiers of the Red Army offered an attractive solution: he managed to save a large number of Soviet prisoners of war from the hands of the SS by incorporating them in the Wehrmacht. When Hitler prohibited the recruitment of Soviet military, von Stauffenberg managed to publicize this order as long as three weeks before it became effective and as a result, many Soviets could still be incorporated in the meantime. Recruiting non-Soviet troops was permitted though. Hans von Herwarth wrote about this:

The SS had found out that the Cossacks were an independent people. Based on this, Von Stauffenberg decided Hitler’s prohibition order did not apply to them. From our side, we made this exceptional position widely known. Thousands of prisoners – including many Russians – took the hint, claimed they were Cossacks and in so doing managed to get out of the camps.

In September 1942, the Chief of the General Staff of the OKH, Generaloberst Franz Halder (de), a close friend of von Stauffenberg, was succeeded by General der Infanterie Kurt Zeitzler (de). In 1943, von Stauffenberg (some sources claim at his own request) was transferred to the post of chief of operations (Ia) of the 10. Panzer-Korps in North-Africa. Zeitzler officially declared:

"I wanted him to gain experience as a staff officer and troop commander in order to prepare him for his future task as commander of a corps and an army."

On 15 February 1943, von Stauffenberg, full of energy, officially embarked on his task in the Afrikakorps. At that moment, the 10. Panzer-Division was in combat near Sidi-Bourzid and the Casserine Pass where the freshly arrived American 2nd Corps got their baptism of fire. For the Americans, the operation ended in disaster but after Major-general George Patton had assumed command, the Germans were driven back. On 7 April 1943, the same day British-American troops from the west made contact with General Montgomery’s (de) 8th Army, von Stauffenberg assisted in the organization of the German withdrawal to the Tunisian coastal town of Sfax (Tunesienfeldzug). His staff car zigzagged through a long line of trucks and soldiers when the column was attacked by a number of American P-40 fighter bombers. Numerous vehicles and soldiers were hit. As his driver wound his way through the wreckage, von Stauffenberg stood upright in his car, giving directions when he was targeted by the .50 machineguns of the P-40s. His hands raised above his head, he jumped out of the car, but at that moment he was hit by the bullets. He was found later on, semiconscious, lying beside his overturned and burnt out car. He was gravely injured: both eyes were damaged by bullets and his right arm was all but shot away, just as two fingers of his left hand. One of his knees was hit and shrapnel lodged in his back and in his legs. He was rushed to the nearest field hospital in Sfax were he was immediately operated upon. The remains of his right hand were amputated just below his wrist, as well as his left ring finger and little finger. His left eye was also removed.

As Montgomery was approaching Sfax, von Stauffenberg was transferred to the hospital in Cartago. En route, the ambulance frequently came under fire from Allied aircraft. The physicians feared the worst and von Stauffenberg was flown to Munich. He was running a high fever, his entire body was bandaged and his chances of survival appeared slim. While in hospital, the Oberstleutnant was being visited by many high ranking officers, including Zeitzler. Many family members came by as well, such as his wife, his mother and his uncle Nikolaus Graf von Üxküll-Gyllenband. Von Stauffenberg talked to him about his growing awareness he had been spared to fulfill a certain task in his life. Because of this mission, his will power to recuperate was extremely strong. He was discharged from hospital as early as 3 July 1943. He regained the sight in his right eye and he taught himself to write again with his three remaining fingers, albeit arduously. From then on he wore a black patch over his left eye but later on, he had an artificial eye made. He also had deep scars in his face and his hearing was impaired. Despite his handicaps, Von Stauffenberg did not consider himself disabled. After a bit of practice, he managed to dress himself again with his three fingers and his teeth only. He could hardly recall what he had done with all of those ten fingers when he still had them, he remarked jokingly.

Despite his severe mutilations, von Stauffenberg remained in the army. On November 1st, 1943, he accepted the position of chief of staff at the Allgemeines Heeresamt (general office of the armed forces), part of the Ersatzheer (reserve army). The Ersatzheer had its headquarters in the Department of War on the Bendlerstrasse in Berlin. Stauffenberg’s chief was General der Infanterie Friedrich Olbricht, a member of the resistance. From here, Von Stauffenberg kept in touch with Henning von Tresckow and other members of the resistance. The latter came up with the plan to use the Ersatzheer as a nucleus for a coup. Various attempts at assasinating Hitler had already failed. Von Stauffenberg, meanwhile considered the heart and soul of the resistance, thought about making an attempt himself. His co-conspirators could not do without him though: the determined and energetic Von Stauffenberg was the most suitable man to lead the coup. He kept the group together and continued motivating the other members.

On 20 June 1944 he was given the important function of chief of staff of the Ersatzheer. This function enabled him to get close to the Führer, for he was frequently called to headquarters to report on the situation of the Ersatzheer. It gradually became obvious that no attempt would be made if von Stauffenberg would not carry it out himself. Among the members of the resistance, he was the only one capable of getting close enough to Hitler so it was decided, more or less by force, to have von Stauffenberg make the attempt. It was like a commander carrying out his own orders. Von Stauffenberg was to take the bomb to Hitler’s headquarters and then return to Berlin as soon as possible to take charge of the coup. On 11 July 1944, von Stauffenberg went to Adolf Hitler’s retreat in Berchtesgaden as representative of the Ersatzheer. This time he carried a bomb, but although he was with Hitler and Hermann Göring for half an hour, he did not carry out the attempt. It turned out, Heinrich Himmler was absent and the conspirators wished in any case to kill both Hitler and Himmler. On 15 July 1944, he had another opportunity but this time, both Himmler and Göring were absent. The conspirators now agreed Von Stauffenberg would make his move on 20 July 1944, when he was at Hitler’s new headquarters, the Führerhauptquartier Wolfsschanze (Wolf's Lair) in Rastenburg (East Prussia), whether Himmler and Göring were present or not. The resistance was in danger of being exposed soon: some members of the civilian resistance had been arrested including Adolf Reichwein and Julius Leber. Quick action was imperative. A friend of Von Stauffenberg also told him about rumors, circulating in Berlin, to the effect that the Führer’s headquarters could be blown up any moment. "Then we have no choice anymore," von Stauffenberg responded, "the Rubicon has been crossed."

In the early evening of 19 July 1944, von Stauffenberg halted near a small church in Berlin-Dahlem, a suburb of Berlin, where a service was going on. He stood in the back, alone, for a long time and afterwards let himself be driven home. He had a lengthy conversation with Friedrich Adam von Trott zu Solz (1909–1944), member of the civilian resistance. He spent the rest of the evening with his brother Berthold who was also involved in the plot. At 07:00 hours in the morning of 20 July 1944, von Stauffenberg and his adjutant, Oberleutnant Werner Karl Otto Theodor von Haeften (1908–1944) boarded a plane to Rastenburg. From the airfield they drove to the Wolfsschanze by car. The meeting was to begin at 12:30. As it was very warm, von Stauffenberg went to a bathroom, supposedly to put on a clean shirt, but in reality he activated the detonator of the bomb. He placed his briefcase containing the bomb in the chart room and then left, allegedly to make a phone call. After a few minutes the bomb exploded and Graf Schenck von Stauffenberg and his adjutant left for Berlin. Erich Fellgiebel (de) however, who was to pass the code word to Berlin when the attempt had succeeded, saw to his alarm Hitler coming out. An officer, presumed Colonel Heinz Brandt (de), who died the next day from his wounds, had shoved the briefcase with the bomb behind a massive leg of the table that had muffled the explosion.[3]

Operation Valkyrie

Main article: Operation Valkyrie
Before he joined the conspirators against Hitler, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg was a staff officer in North Africa where he led the 10th Panzer Army. In the spring of 1943, his command station was attacked by fighter-bombers. The doctors believed that he would not last the rest of the night because he had major injuries. As a result of the attack he lost his left eye, his right hand, and several fingers on his left hand. After numerous surgeries, he was discharged from the hospital three months after his injuries and he joined the Reserve Army staff, which was based in Berlin. Stauffenberg was a very proud and strong man, even when he was in the hospital he wanted to button his own shirt just to prove that he could do it. Many men thought very highly of him, even Hitler who took a liking to him the first time he met him. His appearance alone gained respect. The first time that General Walter Warlimont, a member of the Third Reich, saw Stauffenberg he stated that he was the classic image of the warrior through all of history. I barely knew him, but as he stood there, one eye covered by a black patch, a maimed arm in an empty uniform sleeve, standing tall and straight, looking directly at Hitler … he was … a proud figure, the very image of the General Staff officer … of that time. Stauffenberg had the warrior-like characteristics and the charisma that was needed to develop the plan to assassinate Hitler. Stauffenberg joined the conspiracy leaders because like many others he believed it was best for the national interest. He was very determined to assassinate Hitler and every failure only made him more determined. Stauffenberg was an important part of the conspiracy; it was his plan, Operation Valkyrie that took place on July 20, 1944.
Operation Valkyrie was originally written by Hitler in 1943 to protect Germany from a SS revolt, a revolt within the foreign labor in Germany, or in the case of foreign enemy paratroops landing in Germany. Stauffenberg’s Operation Valkyrie required changes to the original plan. The original Operation Valkyrie was meant to be a quick assembly of military defenses if any attack were to occur on Germany’s territory. If it was necessary to operate this plan, only the “Supreme Army Command in Berlin” could initiate it. Stauffenberg’s plan had one very important change, which was that the plan could be activated if Hitler were to be assassinated and the “loyal and dutiful troops of the Wehrmacht would seize control of the Reich in unwitting support of the resistance.” In reality, the conspirators would seize control of the Reich while it was in a state of confusion to form a democratic socialist state. Any changes in Operation Valkyrie had to be signed by Hitler himself, and fortunately for Stauffenberg Hitler signed the improvements without question. After receiving Hitler’s signature for Operation Valkyrie, the conspirators were able to continue planning his assassination. The assassination plot included Operation Valkyrie, a “shadow government,” and a well-planned “coup d’état,” but the conspirators felt that they were missing people who were vital to the plot. The next step was to find someone who had personal access to Hitler. This person needed to be fully committed to the assassination of Hitler. They also needed the assistance of senior army personnel. Other major participants in the conspiracy were Friedrich Olbricht, the Director of the General Army Office, and Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim (de), a very close friend of Stauffenberg.
Olbricht’s job was to launch Operation Valkyrie if Hitler was assassinated. Mertz was to be with Olbricht to help make the decision of whether or not to issue Valkyrie. Another important man to the plot was Fellgiebel because his job was to prevent any communication in or out of the military quarter after the assassination attempt. The conspiracy leaders realized that there was not anyone who had access to Hitler, as a result, Stauffenberg was promoted to the chief of staff of the Reserve Army to aid the conspiracy. He was responsible for replacements needed in the Army as well as other tasks but, as chief of staff, Stauffenberg had access to Hitler. He was the only one among the conspirators that had personal access to Hitler; therefore, he was the only one that could kill him. Stauffenberg himself was highly valued by the conspirators. General Beck, who was to become the President of Germany if Operation Valkyrie had been successful, told Stauffenberg, promise me that you will leave before the explosion. You’re indispensable here, as you know, if the Valkyrie plan is to be carried out. You’re the only one who knows how our liaison with the army is going to be worked out in detail. Claus von Stauffenberg was to be responsible for placing the bomb at the meeting in Wolf’s Lair and for operating military movements of Operation Valkyrie in Berlin after the explosion killed Hitler. Stauffenberg was convinced that only he could perform the task because the earlier plans of Valkyrie had failed because of complications with other assassins. Colonel Helmuth Stieff, “the diminutive head of the General Staff’s organization branch” had planned on killing Hitler but had changed his mind by the time the explosives for the assassination had arrived. After Stieff had refused to perform the task, Stauffenberg was contacted by Axel von dem Bussche, who wanted to help the conspirators. Bussche did not get the opportunity to kill Hitler because the military clothing that he was going to wear at a “demonstration” for Hitler was annihilated by a British air raid. Bussche was sent to the front in Eastern Europe and soon became a wounded veteran when he lost his leg. These early attempts were hindered by unfortunate luck, but Stauffenberg believed it would be successful if he became the assassin. Stauffenberg had attempted to detonate the bomb two separate times before he was able to do so successfully. July 11, 1944, Stauffenberg was ordered to meet with Hitler and had planned on planting the bomb, but on arrival, he noticed that Göring and Himmler were absent. The conspirators had hoped to kill three birds with one stone when all the leaders of the Reich could be eliminated. Stauffenberg was convinced by Colonel Stieff to postpone the assassination. The second failed attempt by Stauffenberg took place on July 15th of 1944, when he was again summoned to meet with Hitler. Stauffenberg had to enter and leave the meeting room several times without arousing suspicion. He had to make sure that Hitler was at the meeting, and then he had to leave to detonate the bomb. When he returned he had to place the bomb as close to Hitler as possible and then he needed to leave before the bomb exploded.
The reason this attempt failed is unclear, but there are theories, such as Stauffenberg being unable to excuse himself. The conspirator’s cover had nearly been blown after this attempt because Olbricht had issued the warning orders for Operation Valkyrie. He was not aware that Stauffenberg had decided not to plant the bomb as planned. They had to find an excuse to tell the confused commanders. Their excuse was that it was only a practice drill and there was no reason to worry. The fact that the earlier attempts of Operation Valkyrie had failed should have been a warning sign that it would not succeed, but Stauffenberg was determined to accomplish the assassination. When Stauffenberg was called to meet with Hitler on July 20, 1944, he decided that it would be the day he killed Hitler, but he had no idea that ultimately his attempt would fail. On July 20th Stauffenberg arrived at the Wolf’s Lair, a highly protected military quarter in East Prussia, with anticipation. He knew that if Hitler was not assassinated that evening after the explosion, he and everyone he worked with would be dead. Upon arrival Stauffenberg was told by Hitler’s assistant, Field Marshal Keitel the chief of staff, that the conference was pushed forward to 12:30. Five minutes before the meeting was supposed to begin, Stauffenberg asked to freshen up with his assistant's help. His assistant, Lieutenant Werner von Haeften, who was a wounded veteran just like Stauffenberg, helped to prime the bombs in a side room. The type of bomb being used was two 1-kilogram slabs of plastic explosives that could only be activated by a time-pencil. There were two time-pencils, one for each slab. Once pressed into the slap, pressure needed to be exerted on them with pliers to crush a glass vial so that the acid would be released. The bomb would explode when the acid that was released deteriorating a wire that held a spring-loaded detonator. This type of bomb gave Stauffenberg about ten minutes to plant it, but because a time-pencil was unpredictable, the amount of time until the bomb exploded was unknown. The time-pencil could be affected by temperature, so the bomb could go off several minutes early or several minutes late. That day, in particular, had been very hot and humid meaning the bomb could go off at any time. This shortened the amount of time Stauffenberg would have to fuse the bomb and plant it close to Hitler; all before escaping to a car Haeften had waiting for him. While priming the bombs in the side room, Stauffenberg and Haeften were interrupted by a sergeant, asking them to hurry because the conference was starting. Stauffenberg had given the unprimed bomb to Haeften to dispose of, rather than placing it in the briefcase with the set bomb.
This was interference to the operation because they had only had time to prime one bomb before Stauffenberg was rushed to the conference room. If the second bomb had been in the briefcase, the size of the explosion would have been roughly doubled even though it was not detonated by a time-pencil. It would have been possible for Stauffenberg to successfully assassinate Hitler, even with the physical barriers and poor time management, if he had placed the second charge into the briefcase. The conference took place in a barrack, rather than a bunker, where they normally take place. The barrack was made of plaster, wood, and fiberglass, and a roof that was reinforced with concrete pillars. Since the conference had taken place in a barrack the blast was able to escape through the windows and because there was only one charge in the explosion, it was much weaker than it should have been. There was a large oak table inside the room, which was covered with maps and surrounded by the other generals and commanders. When Stauffenberg entered the barrack room he claimed a seat next to Hitler, after stating that he was still having a hard time hearing from the attack in Africa. He quickly set down the briefcase behind a table leg before exiting the room; it was about three feet from Hitler. The large oak table became a lifesaver for Hitler. He was protected because at the time of the explosion he was leaning over the table looking at maps and because the location of the bomb also provided a barrier. The men standing around the table, nearest Hitler, also created a blockade that protected Hitler from the bomb. If Hitler had not been leaning over the table, if there had not been men standing close to Hitler, and if the bomb was not placed behind a leg, there would have been a greater chance that the explosion would have created more damage that would have led to Hitler’s death. The explosion that happened around 12:40 caused minimal damage compared to what it could have done. The windows of the barrack-room were shattered, the floor buckled, the ceiling collapsed, and parts of the walls exploded. Hitler emerged from the room virtually untouched by the bomb except for a few cuts, bruises, and splinters. As for the other men in the room, several died, some had major injuries such as the loss of a leg, but others escaped with only shattered eardrums and a few minor injuries. While the men were taking in the aftermath of the explosion, Stauffenberg was making his way to Berlin to carry out Operation Valkyrie. He saw the explosion and believed that no one could have survived. It was a big mistake to assume this because the one person he had wanted to kill had survived.
Hitler’s survival only allowed several hours of confusion, which did not help the conspirators. If Hitler had been killed, then there would have been several days of confusion that would have helped the democratic socialist government take hold of Germany. “Valkyrie began to die almost as soon as it was born.” The commands made by the conspirators were immediately countermanded by Hitler’s orders coming from the Wolf’s Lair. Officers in the army were forced to face a decision, follow the commands of the conspirators and lose their lives or to follow the commands of Hitler. Men were confused and scared and as a result, delayed any action at all. Otto Ernst Remer stationed his men around the city of Berlin as he was told to do when the orders for Operation Valkyrie went out, but he was not part of the conspiracy because the plotters had not had enough time to replace him and hoped that he would remain on their side. After a phone call with Hitler, Remer quickly realized what was going on and rejoined his side. It was becoming more and more inevitable that this plot would fail, but after Remer removed his troops from protecting the conspirators it was clear that the conspirators were condemned. Soldiers in Berlin were unaware of the situation but were still loyal to Hitler. The confirmation of Hitler’s’ survival from the explosion made the soldiers fear any association with the conspirators and Valkyrie. This led to the end of the conspirators and to the end of Valkyrie. Before midnight on July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg, Mertz, Olbricht, and the other members of the conspiracy were killed.[4]


Marineoberstabsrichter Berthold Alfred Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (brother) on 10 August 1944 at the trial before the People's Court; he was proven guilty and executed on the same day.
Heimeran Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (son)

On 26 September 1933, handsome von Stauffenberg married his fiancée Nina Freiin von Lerchenfeld, five years his junior, whom he had met in Bamberg. The couple was to have five children, three boys and two girls:

  • Berthold (b. 3 July 1934)
    • “My dearest wish was to march through Bamberg carrying a Nazi banner at the head of a youth parade (Jungvolk).”;[5] became a general in the Bundeswehr. He expressed his disagreement that Scientologist Tom Cruise would play the role of his father, a believing Catholic.
  • Heimeran (b. 9 July 1936; d. 20 October 2020)
    • Shipping clerk and entrepreneur
  • Franz Ludwig (b. 4 May 1938)
    • became a lawyer and member of the Reichstag
  • Valerie (b. 15 November 1940)
    • died of leukemia, had a daughter
  • Konstanze (b. 27 January 1945)
    • Journalist and writer; married since 1967, Konstanze and her husband Dietrich von Schulthess-Rechberg (1937) have four children. Their son, Philipp von Schulthess|de (born 1973), is an actor who played a supporting role in the 2008 film Valkyrie.

All children were baptized according to the Catholic rite, although Nina was a Lutheran, like her mother-in-law. Von Stauffenberg men could marry Lutheran women, but the children in the family, by tradition, have always been Catholics. He pursued his military career in Berlin, which was rapidly going up the hill. He visited home every 3-4 weeks. He came, played for hours with the children, rolled them on his back, and flew a kite with them. Children doted on him and looked forward to their next visit. And Nina was a faithful wife and homemaker.[6]

July 21, 1944 (the day after the assassination attempt) was one of the most tragic and difficult in Nina's life. She informed the older children that their father made a mistake and was executed last night. And she added: “ But thank God the Fuhrer remained alive". She said this deliberately to protect them, as well as the youngest, who was still unborn, because the Gestapo will undoubtedly interrogate the children. She was simply forced to lie. Only after the war do children learn that, in fact, their father is a hero, and their mother had to lie to them to save them. In accordance with the "ancient German" laws on blood guilt (Sippenhaft), the relatives of the conspirators were also subjected to repression. Stauffenberg's other brother and Nina's mother ended up in the Buchenwald concentration camp; on July 23, the Gestapo came for Nina. She was interrogated for hours, then taken to a solitary confinement cell, where a bright light was constantly on. She did not sleep and began to smoke a lot again. The children were sent to an orphanage for "children of traitors" in Bad Sasha, for re-education and "reforging" into the National Socialists. The relatives were not allowed to take the children and were not even informed of their whereabouts. Other children of the executed members of the July 20 group were also placed there. All family letters and photographs were taken away from the children, they received other names and surnames, they were divided by age, and for the first months they did not see each other. But it was not possible to completely "erase" their memory - at least the elders remembered their names and parents, and at rare meetings they constantly reminded the younger about this. For pregnant Nina, an odyssey of wandering through solitary confinement cells began, then the Ravensbrück concentration camp, and in January 1945, in a hospital in Frankfurt, she gave birth to a daughter, whom she gave the name Constance, which means "persistent" in Latin. Later, Nina learned that literally a few days after the birth of her daughter, her mother Anna died in a concentration camp. The last months of the war were marked by chaos, bombing, robberies ... On April 12, 1945, Nina and her little daughter were sent to Bavaria under the escort of a field gendarme. After a long march on foot, she managed to persuade the gendarme to let her go, because the outcome of the war was already a foregone conclusion. She found her father's relatives who sheltered her and her daughter. In June 1945, Nina found her older children, whom she had not seen for almost a year. And they began to live anew. After the war, Nina and her children returned to her husband's family estate, Lautlingen.
“For my mother, everything changed from day to day. The whole family was together again in Lautlingen, as if gathered here by the hand of God. Only the father was missing. The wandering was over, but what lay ahead of her? Freeing and returning to her family was a relief for her. But at the same time, it was the beginning of an extremely difficult period, a period of reflection and an attempt to realize all that she had experienced and suffered. And she was also faced with the task of rebuilding her existence. What is left of her former life, the one she lived before July 20, 1944? The husband was executed, the mother died in the camp in dire conditions, her parents' house in Bamberg was badly damaged by the war. Her life was destroyed." (from the book of Nina's daughter Constance)
The execution of her husband and the subsequent trials changed her greatly. Previously cheerful and cheerful, she became withdrawn and silent. She was engaged in social work: she collaborated with the Americans and the new German authorities on the issues of denazification and the arrangement of post-war life, was busy with the restoration and preservation of the historical appearance of Bamberg ... As for his personal post-war life, it was all dedicated to the memory of her husband. Sometimes even to the detriment of children. Nina had phases when she went into herself, and the children did not see her for a long time. She often left for several weeks. And when she was at home, she left her chambers only to give orders to the servants. She tried to keep everything in the house as it was during her husband's life. In 1966, Nina buried her 26-year-old daughter Valerie, who had died of leukemia. Nina died in 2006 at the age of 92.


Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg III.jpg
Verleihung des Deutschen Kreuzes in Gold an Oberstleutnant i. G. Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg, 1943.jpg
  • 1 April 1926 – Fahnenjunker
  • 18 August 1927 – Fahnenjunker-Gefreiter
  • 15 October 1927 – Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier
  • 1 August 1929 – Fähnrich
  • 1 January 1930 – Leutnant
  • 1 May 1933 – Oberleutnant
  • 1 January 1937 – Rittmeister
    • renamed in Hauptmann i. G. (i. G. = im Genetralstab) on 1 November 1939
  • 1 January 1941 – Major i. G.
  • 1 January 1943 – Oberstleutnant i. G.
  • 1 July 1944 – Oberst i. G. with seniority (Rangdienstalter) from 1 April 1944

Awards and decorations

  • German Reich Sport Badge (Deutsches Reichssportabzeichen) in Bronze
  • Honor saber (Ehrensäbel) for outstanding achievements in the weapon school of the Reichswehr on
  • Wehrmacht Long Service Award (Wehrmacht-Dienstauszeichnung), 4th to 3rd Class (12 years)
    • 4th Class on 2 October 1936
    • 3rd Class on 1 April 1938
  • Sudetenland Medal (Medaille zur Erinnerung an den 1. Oktober 1938)
  • Iron Cross (1939), 2nd and 1st Class
    • 2nd Class in 1939
    • 1st Class on 31 May 1940 as Hauptmann im Generalstab im Stab der 6. Panzer-Division
  • Bulgarian Order of Bravery, IV Class, 1st Grade on 25 October 1941 as Major im Generalstab and Chef der Gruppe II, Organisationsabteilung
  • Order of the Cross of Liberty, 3rd Class with Swords on 11 December 1942
  • Wound Badge (Verwundetenabzeichen 1939) in Gold on 1 April 1943 as Oberstleutnant im Generalstab and Ia in der 10. Panzer-Division des Heeres
  • Medal for the Italo-German campaign in Africa on 20 April 1943
  • German Cross in Gold on 8 May 1943 as Oberstleutnant im Generalstab and Ia in der 10. Panzer-Division des Heeres


In 1990, the German Democratic Republic wanted to donate the von Stauffenberg medal for military merit, which was not possible due to German reunification. On 3 April 2000, a bust of von Stauffenberg was unveiled in the Bavarian Hall of Fame (Rumeshalle). A memorial of the state of Baden-Württemberg was opened in Stuttgart's "Alten Schloss" in 2006.

See also

External links


  1. Regarding personal names: Graf (de) is a title of German nobility (Deutscher Adel), somtetimes translated as Count, not a first or middle name, but connected with the surname, for example Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin, not Graf Ferdinand von Zeppelin. The female form is Gräfin.
  2. Carolina Gräfin Schenk von Stauffenberg
  3. Stauffenberg, Claus Schenk Graf von, Traces of War
  4. Brandy Willetts: Operation Valkyrie: A Failed Assassination Attempt on Hitler, 20 October 2019
  5. Claus Von Stauffenberg
  6. Hitler's failed assassin. Should the memory of Klaus Stauffenberg be honored?